Two months to book an Olympic ticket

After three hurried events in 10 days that saw a grand total of one Olympic qualifying mark being achieved, Indian athletes are now pinning their hopes on several competitions in Europe and Asia to book their ticket to Rio.

Dutee Chand (right) won the 100m sprint with an impressive performance at the Indian Grand Prix at Patiala on Friday.   -  Sandeep Saxena

After three hurried events in 10 days that saw a grand total of one Olympic qualifying mark being achieved, Indian athletes are now pinning their hopes on several competitions in Europe and Asia to book their ticket to Rio.

The second leg of the Indian Grand Prix was the third event and, barring the Inter-State Championships (June 28-July 2), there are no other qualifying competitions in the country. As such, the upcoming two months across the globe would be crucial for both the track and field athletes.

While the quartermilers and the 4x400m relay teams, along with the javelin throwers, would be travelling to Spala in Poland to train at the Olympic Preparation Centre and participate in competitions, the sprinters, both individual and relay, would be travelling to China and Taiwan for qualifying competitions.

“They would then return and then proceed to Kazakhstan for training and competitions there as well. Alongside them, the jumpers, who returned recently from South Africa, too would be travelling to Taiwan and then Kazakhstan after a short stay in Trivandrum. We are trying to get them as many chances at qualifying, let's hope for the best,” AFI secretary CK Valson said here. The cut off date for qualification is July 11.

However, realistically, only a few can hope to do it. While Dutee Chand in 100m and Srabani Nanda in the 200 have been consistently knocking on the Rio doors for some time, Poovamma and Anilda Thomas are the only ones to clock decent timings in the 400. The 4x400 relay team, currently 17th in the world (the top 16 qualify for Olympics), needs to improve its timing and though the coaches believe the squad is just one good race away from meeting the target, the other runners haven't really been posting encouraging timings.

Long jumpers Ankit Sharma and Premkumar Kumaravel are both considered possibilities by Romanian coach Bedros Bedrosian but his best hope is Mayookha Johny in triple jump. “Ankit is very hard working but is not patient. He wants to jump far at once but I try to tell him to improve gradually. Premkumar on the other hand is more smart but puts lesser effort. Mayookha is both hard working and smart, she can do it very easily,” Bedrosian explained.

Among others are those training individually – Krishna Poonia and Seema Punia (discus) and Arpinder Singh (triple jump) – with Krishna returning from a two-year break, Seema closing in on the target (her latest was 58.86m) and Arpinder, inexplicably, regressing to sub-16m.

With just six Indians qualifying so far for the quadrennial event – apart from the walkers and the marathoners – the race enters the home stretch now as do the athletes, hoping to peak soon and book that elusive ticket.